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Bold Millennials Are Making Hamilton Canada's Next Great City

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HAMILTON ONTARIO
Arpad Benedek
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As we have seen in recent days, movements can change the world. Sometimes for good and sometimes, well, who knows.

This writer is known to be one of the fiercest champions of a city we know as Toronto. So why is another city holding our gaze?

Well, the current movement and its people who have created it make it impossible to look away.

We returned to the city of Hamilton various times after we called it Canada's Brooklyn in 2015 and the Internet blew up.

So, why did we go back? Well, many reasons, but frankly we wanted to make sure we were not being punked. That collective spirit we saw, was it still there?

What we found last year was a city where you are told that, "you can do anything in Hamilton." Upon our return, we were hit like a tsunami by a movement we can coin right here as "Hamilievers."

These are open, inclusive, big-hearted citizens. Sound familiar? They are people that are not chirping negativity on Twitter. Not talking about doing great things. Not throwing a city and community under the bus. Not being fearful of thinking big.

What we found were people that were doing. Doing more. Doing good. Doing big. Doing welcoming. Doing pride.

The catalyst of this movement is in fact the born and raised millennial Hamiltonian. These are people that believe so strongly in the potential of their city and are doing all they can for the world to understand one thing:

"You don't need to leave Hamilton to enjoy the fruits of a growing exciting world. And if you don't live here, please do come and be part of our family to create wonder with us."

These are citizens that clearly have heard Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's call. In his first days of office, he told us, "... I need your creativity. Your ideas. Your energy. Your leadership. Together, we can build this country into something extraordinary, because this is Canada. And in Canada... better is always possible."

Hamilton also exemplifies our prime minister's wish for how the world sees Canada and our people.

Going further, Gord Downie, another inspiring Canadian, clearly posed a challenge to our country when he sang those lyrics, perhaps for the last time that hit many of us right in the gut. "Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is our life." is what he inspired us to act on. Not to talk about. But to do something with.

Hamiltonians are stepping up and changing their reality for the better. This is a case study in active citizenship at work.

And as a timely new campaign from Hamilton tells us, ambition is in their blood. Watch here.

We had an opportunity to meet with three of the young millennials change makers that are driving this movement. They are all under the age of 35 years old. And there are many more who have taken the torch and are doing wondrous things.

What follows are highlights of this conversation. Stephen Kulakowsky is a real estate developer with several projects in the King William area, Ryan Moran, Co-Founder of CoMotion on King & Senior Manager of Marketing, Niagara Parks, and Erin Dunham, is the CEO and co-owner of leading restaurant group, The Other Bird Inc.

The partnership we see between millennial and established city builders is real and evident. What triggered this? What makes it work?

SK: Hamiltonians have known the potential of the city for decades, but potential needs to be realized before change can happen. The collaboration builds on the excitement to see the city prosper. Young or old, we are all sick of saying Hamilton is on the cusp or tipping point. We don't use those sayings anymore.

ED: I feel as though the established city builders are happy to have the younger generation showing an interest in developing Hamilton. I imagine some of them are pretty tired and looking to have the younger generation take on some of the load. We all want the same thing... a better, growing city... and we have to work together in order to achieve that goal.

RM: Most importantly, what triggered it and what makes it work is the crucial combination of an absence of ego, and a desire to just do good. What is special, and not necessarily unique about the Hamilton case, is the crucial combination of energetic and inventive emerging leaders bringing forward awesome projects, and established, yet insightful leaders who see beyond themselves to help make sure good things happen for the broader community.

What is a message you want to send the world to inspire them to come visit? And to live?

SK: City Hall has longed publicly for Hamilton to be the best place to raise a child in the country. We have interesting spaces to live, creative office space and a growing list of amenities not to mention some of the best geography and green space in the region.

ED: We aren't steel anymore; we are a perfect combination of everything else.

RM: Hamilton is Play-Doh. This is a place where you can come, love everything about it already, yet find an awesome community that encourages and supports you to dig your hands in, mold it and make it unique to you. It is diverse, fun, and ready for those who want shape the future.

We need to see what is happening here. We need to bottle it up and spread this type of active citizenship not only to other parts of Canada but to the world.

What is happening is what prime minister Trudeau desires in how we as citizens create the city and country we want. It's what Gord Downie wants in how we as Canadians step up and do something bold and meaningful.

There are countless reasons for you to visit or explore living in Hamilton. Here are a few.

Pop Up Hamilton.

Front Row Entertainment.

Try Hamilton.

Hamilton Hive.

Nosh Culinary Week.

Upcoming restaurant called The French.

West Harbour development.

Do check it out. It's people and vibe may change your life. It certainly has changed ours.

Is this the promised land as they so call say it is? Well, we are Hamilievers. So much so that we started a hashtag to prove it. Check it out #IAmAHamiliever.

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